Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What I've been reading

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The Seasick Whale
by Ephraim Kishon

translated by Yohanan Goldman
"The rollicking account of an Israeli traveller abroad. In London, Hollywood, Venice, Paris, wherever Mr Kishon goes troubles follow."
Despite being written sometime in the 1960's (the book I have has no publication date) the satirical take on different European and US nationals is still sharp. Brits are impossible to rouse to anger and polite to the point of annoyance; in Hollywood there is nowhere to park and you can achieve nothing without an agent. Very entertaining.

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Daniel Deronda
by George Eliot

narrated by Juliet Stevenson
"Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic Daniel Deronda. But Deronda, profoundly affected by the discovery of his Jewish ancestry, is ultimately too committed to his own cultural awakening to save Gwendolen from despair."
George Eliot's last and very long book, 36 hours of audio narrated beautifully and nicely edited - the long passages in various languages at the head of chapters were faded out in favour of the English translation. Lots of Jewish colour from the period - Jews in high positions as well as lowly pawnbrokers and thieves - alongside tales of the Christian aristocracy and how marriage was used to create and measure social status. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be reading it again!

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Last Seen Wearing
by Colin Dexter
"Valerie Taylor has been missing since she was seventeen, more than two years ago. Inspector Morse is sure she's dead. But if she is, who forged the letter to her parents saying 'I am alright so don't worry'?"
I haven't read a 'Morse' book before, and I was surprised that the quality of writing wasn't as good as I had expected. I thought that the books were the source of the TV series, but now it wouldn't surprise me if the TV came first. It was no better than OK.

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by Elizabeth Gaskell

narrated by Prunella Scales
"Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women."
Listening to this was a very pleasant experience. All the characters had distinct personalities and went through the ups and downs of nineteenth century village life with attitudes of optimism and contentment as well as a little envy and resentment. Just like most of us, but without the conspicuous consumption.

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Death to the French
by C. S. Forester
"In 1810, with Wellington's army penned behind the Tigus, Rifleman Dodd becomes separated from his regiment. When he stumbles upon a band of Portuguese guerrillas, he transforms this ramshackle group into an organized fighting force that continually harries the infuriated enemy."
Not a Hornblower novel, this covers the brutal exploits of an English soldier and his single-minded, if not simple-minded approach to the life of a fighting man who has known nothing else. The book title has since been changed to 'Rifleman Dodd' but the original is more in line with the contents of the book. It portrays the English forces as the best, most efficient and well-led force of the time in a fairly jingoistic style, and the Portuguese and French as both sadistic and incompetent.

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